One Word to Describe São Paulo, Brazil: Underrated

We have been here in São Paulo for the last weeks. We are in love with the city and we want to take a little tour with you to our favorite bars, restaurants, neighborhoods, and museums. Here’s our story:

This is Centro, the Central Region of São Paulo, which is one of my favorite neighborhoods in the whole city. I think in North America most of the central regions are strictly business; only office buildings and banks. In São Paulo, however, there is a big counterculture that is also here. I think the best place to see it all is called Galeria do Rock. It’s a six-story palace dedicated to rock, tattoo parlors, and record stores. It’s just awesome.

In the Centro, there are many abandoned buildings that were occupied by political activists and artists. In their view they are protesting the high cost of living. You can find many graffiti arts along the building walls. One of them particularly says, “Living is a right; occupying is a must”.

Another place that leaves a good memory for us is São Paulo Museum of Art. It’s the largest museum in all of Latin America. It’s located near Paulista Avenue – the path you must take if you want to head over to Livraria Cultura, a bookstore. Not just a bookstore actually, because this one is also the largest of its kind in South America. It is an amazing place.

But this street in my opinion would be kind of the equivalent of Broadway in New York. It has all banks and all businesses. It’s kind of the main crossing route of all São Paulo. There are people playing music, shouting protests, skateboarders rushing up and down the road, artists; everyone kind of congregates here in Paulista Avenue, the center of the city.

If I were to live in some neighborhood in São Paulo, surely it would be in Bela Vista Augusta. In the 70’s and 80’s, this region was full of punks, gays, hipppies, and lesbians. Everyone lived here in harmony. Now it is a place that is slowly gentrifying. For me, personally, this is a perfect neighborhood in São Paulo.

At night, if you feel like having burrito for dinner, I recommend going to Chicano Taqueria. While I was in there enjoying my meal, I managed to talk with the owner of the restaurant. He said that he chose this place as the location of his business because he’d wanted to find a place in São Paulo that looked like the Mission District, in San Francisco. Baixo Augusta, in his opinion, was very similar to the Mission District. There is a kind of magical atmosphere at night. It’s a little different from the Mission District, but at the same time very similar.

Next destination would no doubt be Vila Madalena, which is definitely one of most fun place in São Paulo. It’s full of amazing bars and restaurants and lots of art. There are several alleys that people just fill with art; definitely a great place to visit at night to see the nightlife of São Paulo and get some drinks. You will probably find some of the best restaurants in South America.

So for me, one of the coolest things about São Paulo is its diversity. It is one of the largest concentrations of Italians outside Italy, one of the largest concentrations of Lebanese outside the Middle East, and the largest concentration of Japanese outside Japan. And I think the best place to see this diversity is the Liberdade neighborhood.

One of the coolest things to do in Liberdade on the weekend is to visit Sunday Street Market. You can get various types of Japanese food from around the world. I had Takoyaki while I was there, which is shrimp and squid fried in a creamy ball with a Japanese sauce on top. It was delicious. I also had Yakisoba, which is a Brazilian version of Japanese noodles. It had chicken steak and some vegetables; delicious!

I think it’s the mix of different classes, races and religions – all coming together – that makes São Paulo one of the greatest cities in the world. It definitely should have more tourists coming. What about you? Do you think São Paulo is a bit underrated and deserves to be one of the world’s top destinations? Or have you ever had unpleasant experience while visiting the city that makes you not recommend it to your friends? Chirp in on the comment below.